Punked by agave!
In the fluster of the past few days as I’ve been hunting down all things agave spirit related in the United States a Facebook follower pointed me to Tukwila Reposado from Westland Distillery in Seattle. I blithely noted it and kept going and only circled back this morning to do more research. Then I realized that there was more to the story and got into touch with Westland’s distiller Matt Hofmann for a quick talk about the truth behind Tukwila.
First up it’s pronounced ‘taqwilla’ and is named after a Seattle suburb that runs south to Seatac. Second, the spirit actually exists but it was really a one off stunt. As Matt told me, it “was just a joke that we had thought of years ago. We’re 100% a malt whiskey distillery but let’s try something fun.”
Their version of fun is a bit more complex than what you or I get into and it turned to be more than they bargained for as well. They started four years ago with 50 gallon drums of agave syrup because that was the only agave source material they could use in Seattle. So good, so far but once they started to work with it they couldn’t get it fermenting. Matt said that it “was one of most difficult things to ferment, we couldn’t get it to go, we were utterly defeated by it. We threw 4-5 yeasts at it, we used enzymes, and then we ended up only getting 20% of the yield that we thought we would.”
Their perseverance paid off because they finally did get to distill it and stored it in the prototype barrels they’d used fro their early work with malt whiskeys. They blended the Tukwila by removing some of the spirit after a year and the rest after three years which yielded a grand total of 65 bottles; evaporation is the distiller’s enemy!
As for the confusion about the release well, they got to have it both ways. Matt is nothing if not a literal prankster because he fulfilled the desire to deliver an April Fools prank but “we actually released it.” It was a distillery only release with emphasis on the past tense since they sold out on April 1 after they posted it to their Facebook page and ran a press release. A group of fans showed up saying “we’re only here if you’re actually releasing it” which could have led to a rather sticky situation but everyone came out in the end.
How does it taste? Since it sold out long before I could hop a flight to Seattle we’ll have to trust Matt’s description.
It doesn’t really taste like tequila or mezcal. It tastes like what it’s made from, agave syrup. It’s pleasant but not super complex. A bit nutty with dark, spicy syrup notes. It picked up some of the character from the malt whiskey barrels. It’s pretty clean, and not viscous because the consistency of the syrup doesn’t translate to the distillate. And it’s certainly concentrated because of time in barrel.
Would they do it again? “It was a fun side project for us, but we’re never going to do it again. However, we are going to mature some of our single malt whiskey in used mezcal barrels. ”